The Art Of Time Management: How To Be Effective
When it comes to good time management you need to learn to be two things – effective and efficient. In basic terms that means you have to be able to pick out the right tasks and then do them in the most economical way. In this two part series I want to look at both approaches and discuss my own experiences of how I achieve them. Firstly I will look at how to be effective. It’s important to understand how significant this stage is. It’s pointless working on something efficiently if you don’t need to do it in the first place.
It’s not good trying to be effective if you firstly don’t know the difference between stuff you need to do and stuff you merely want to do. There is a time and place for the latter. Those tasks you need to do are the ones that have serious consequences for not doing them. If you don’t pay an electricity bill you get cut off, if you don’t attend a work conference you get sacked. Because of the 9-to-5 culture nowadays you often have to find work to do to keep busy. However it’s a nasty habit to slip into because the truly important work gets lost in the mix (and as I mentioned in my previous post, being busy ultimately means nothing if you aren’t working on the right things).
So much time can be wasted doing things that are low value. In fact value should be a guiding factor for what work you choose. Until recently I’d been sticking with an hobby (in basic terms, creating artwork for computer games), not because I enjoyed it anymore but because I’d been doing it for so many years it seemed a shame to stop. Then I started thinking about the value it was giving me. I didn’t enjoy it liked I used to do, there was no future in it (I was certainly not going to make a career of it) and it took up so much time. I was getting little out of it. With the time I saved by stopping doing it, I was able to indulge in my blogging and writing interests which I really enjoy and am getting lots out of.
It’s highly useful to have some sort of idea of your plans, hopes and dreams for the future. That way you can also be effective in the work you do over the long term (is there a point in making big commitments at work when you don’t intend to stay there, for instance?). How deep you want to get into that is entirely your prerogative, I’ve never considered having a deep picture of your long-term future to be especially constructive (after all, things change all the time) but it’s far more preferable than living from day-to-day. You want to know what direction your journeying in, even if you haven’t chosen the eventual destination yet.
This all brings me to the golden rule of being effective, the 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle). Tim Ferriss gets it spot on in my opinion, when he focuses on the value of this rule in relation to good time management. If you are a regular reader of this blog, or any productivity, financial and business blog, you will probably have heard of this rule but for those who haven’t, it can be summed up simply as 80% of outputs result from 20% of inputs. When applied to the idea of value, as discussed above, that means 20% of your work provides 80% of the value in your life. Focus on those few important tasks, cut out the rest and will save you so much time.